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How marketers are blowing lead management

How marketers are blowing lead management Michael Ferree

Online marketing has always been moving toward performance-driven models. A clear example of this evolution is Google's recent adoption of a cost per lead (CPL) model with the introduction of comparison ads. This transition has been in the making for almost two years, and at the same time, more and more advertisers are demanding this same pricing model. The reason for the shift is clear: The CPL model mitigates the risk between the advertisers/brands and marketers working on their behalf. It also ensures that both sides are invested in campaign success. However, success isn't gauged on lead volume. It's based on conversions.

Regardless of engagement structure, industry, or lead type, lead management is a critical and overlooked component of marketing. A study performed by lead management software company Leads360 exposed a number of important facts about performance-marketing and lead management. One important statistic shows that converting a lead is 57 percent lead quality and 43 percent an efficient sales process. This is noteworthy because it proves that success does not come from cultivating the highest quality leads. Success comes from lead management and lead quality. One without the other is not the answer.

I've had the pleasure of implementing performance-marketing campaigns for a very diverse range of industries, from life insurance to for-profit education companies, from cellular carriers to pharmaceutical companies. This experience has exposed two distinct problems in lead management programs that are troubling companies -- regardless of their industry.

Speed to contact
The first issue for lead buyers is a lack of urgency around contacting leads. To fully realize the importance of this point you first have to understand one very basic fact: Your prospective clients are shopping to find the best deal. In many cases, consumers are undecided on which company best addresses their needs, and they need help deciding. It's a widely accepted fact that consumers complete 2-3 forms before ending their searches. Contact speed is the single most important factor in lead management. Consumers need to be addressed when their interest is high. A minute later, they may lose interest or, even worse, give their business to a competitor.

A study performed by MIT, and recently confirmed by LeadQual, showed that the odds of converting a lead are five times greater when the lead is contacted within five minutes of form completion versus waiting 10 minutes. Waiting 30 minutes after receiving a lead means the odds of making contact are 100 times less than if a call was placed within five minutes. The goal is to contact leads while they're still online before they request information from a competitor.

A worse scenario is when leads are not called at all. The same survey notes that of a 423 lead sample, 37 percent were never contacted. Advertisers should use a lead management system to guarantee timely lead delivery. The rules of lead management are simple: Call your leads, and call them within five minutes. Doing so will greatly affect your bottom line, guaranteed.

Call frequency
Another issue plaguing marketers and their clients is finding the ideal call frequency. There is wide range of best practices, but I would like to narrow the field of choices.

A recent study released by Leads360 put solid data behind the answer to this question. Its study proved that there is an optimal number of contact attempts. I'm not talking about cold calling or prospecting, just about following up with contacts who have requested information or expressed interest in hearing from your company. Calling a lead at a higher frequency than recommended will not improve your chances of contacting said lead. In fact, the opposite is true. The study looked at 15 million leads and concluded that six attempts should be made to contact a lead. A more detailed explanation of this study can be found in a comment on a lead generation industry blog. The comment clearly details the likelihood of connecting with a lead with up to the 20 calls. One other thing to note is that marketers have an 87 percent higher chance of contacting the lead on call No. 2 versus call No. 1.

My suggestion is to call a lead at different times of the day for each succeeding call until the best time to call is determined with successful contact. Calling your leads at the same time every day will decrease your chances of reaching them. Your goal should be to spread your net across the largest, most diverse time range. It is also important to note that the optimal call volume may vary slightly from vertical to vertical, so a closer look at your company's specific situation should be taken into consideration.

Generating leads for your company or client is only half the battle, literally. The marriage of quality leads and a solid lead management process will enable both the marketer and advertiser to reach marketing nirvana. The biggest mistake companies can make when launching a lead generation campaign is only focusing on how leads are generated, not how they will be managed. The first goal is to create leads, and it's not until they filter in that advertisers realize their lead management process needs work. If you're a lead generator or marketing executive, it's your responsibility to process leads effectively. Lead management should be a top priority. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Michael Ferree is an account director at Geary Interactive.

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Michael Ferree has spent the last 8+ years in the online marketing space as both a buyer and a generator of Internet leads. He is well respected in the lead generation industry for his writings and presentations on the topic of lead management. He...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Michael Ferree

2010, January 12


Great point! There are a number of things a lead buyer should be doing to be successful, these are just a few.


Commenter: P M

2010, January 12

Great Article, I am glad people are benefiting from our call attempt study! Lead Management combined with sound best practices like (optimal call attempts) put you in the best possible position to succeed. This is especially important in industries that our experiencing heavy growth right now, as referenced in this blog post we recently wrote.


Even when times are good, committing to a lead management system and best practices ensures that you are prepared now, and when times aren't so good.

Thanks again for the great post!


Commenter: Rufus Manning

2010, January 11

Good piece Mike. I especially agree with the speed to contact comment that so many lead buyers overlook.

Another aspect is what type of leads are you generating. Yes, you may have highly contactable leads, but are they like your highest value customers? If scoring leads isn't part of a marketers' repertoire, it should be.

Commenter: fred sajon

2010, January 08

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Commenter: Beau Bratton

2010, January 07

Great article Michael!

I believe many more marketing managers that buy or generate leads are finally coming around to the fact that they need to do everything possible to contact their leads as fast as possible. In many cases faster than humanly possible. There are a few automated dialing systems out there that can help accomplish that. (Shameless Plug Coming Up)
I happen to like www.consumertransfer.com. Consumer Transfer provides a very unique automated telephony platform for real-time leads. Oh I should probably mention I work for them as well. In any case anyone who is interested in improving this process can try out a free week long trial through the end of January.

Commenter: Michael Ferree

2010, January 06

Thanks for the comment.
I think the problem why it goes in one ear and out the other is because they have a lack of experience and simply have not hit bottom.
They undoubtedly will though.

Commenter: Carrie Ogilvie

2010, January 06

Great article Michael thanks for the input

Commenter: Tyler Lubbers

2010, January 06


Thanks for the great article, it is amazing how many large companies that buy leads do not have a good lead management plan in place. Even after we consult them on the importance of lead management, it sometimes goes in one ear and out the other. I will be sure to send a link to this article to some of our next clients, that way they can at least hear it from someone else and maybe it will sink in.

Commenter: Michael Ferree

2010, January 05

You are right on Roger. Each client, no matter the level at which they are in the sales process, should receive immediate responses to their inquiries.

Good point, thank you.

Commenter: Roger Marquis

2010, January 05


Thank you for your article. You make some very interesting points, but if one were to look at lead management from a pure client services perspective then it goes without saying that a prospect should get a call back within minutes of making the initial contact. Prospect or client, they should be treated somewhat the same when it comes to service delivery.

Again, thank you for the article.